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Alameda, a newcomer’s perspective

This blog, Desperately Seeking Root Beer (not sure what the title’s about), has a post up, Alameda: An Introduction. The post details a newcomer’s impression of Alameda (there’s lots of nice visuals), and the the writer, Andy M., notes things people said to him when he was moving to Alameda:

I’m not sure I’ve ever been there. I hear it’s nice though.
Sure Andy, I’ll meet you in Alameda. Umm, how do I get there?
How long does it take you to get to Oakland?
I’ve been to Alameda for breakfast, but it’s a bit out of the way.”

As well as comments people have made since:

It’s kind of stuck in the 50s, but at least that means good diners.
Fogue-town.
[as in old fogies]
It still feels like a military town.
It’s over-policed.

I know the nine years I’ve lived here make me a newcomer in many people’s eyes, but it is interesting to be reminded of those sorts of reactions to Alameda. And to see they still exist—even nearly a decade after I made the move to the Island.

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Alameda City Manger Debra Kurita out

So the rumors have been bubbling up for weeks, but today—after a closed-door city council session earlier in the week–Alameda’s City Manager Debra Kurita, who has served the city for more than three years, tendered her resignation.

The Alameda Journal has this story. Michele Ellson at The Island has this. A while back I did this profile of Kurita. I’m sure we’ll be learning more details in the days to come.

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Alameda’s Webster House for sale…again

The Chronicle has this feature about an East End property called “Webster House.” You can read Alameda real estate blogger Knifecatcher‘s documentation of the history of that sale here.

In other housing news, it sounds like most Bay Area homeowners won’t qualify for the new federal mortgage relief plan, based on the size of their mortgages (too big) and the percentage by which they’re ‘under water,’ or owing more than their home’s value. Use this Zillow-based search engine to check out the percentage of homes underwater. You can search by city, county or zip code.

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Play fair, Alameda

Life on the Island, the column I write for the print edition of the Alameda Journal, is up online now. This week it’s about Save Our City! Alameda and how the group’s tactic of asserting that the city is on the verge of bankruptcy as a way to bolster opposition to development at Alameda Point just serves to muddle debate and make it harder for people to get to the real, complicated issues that concern Alamedans.

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Meth bust in Alameda

The Alameda Journal‘s Peter Hegarty has this story up about a meth bust on Alameda Ave. in Alameda. The East Bay Express has an item up about the arrest, too. What’s most interesting about the Express post is the way it characterizes Alameda, in kind of a snotty way. “Alameda,” writes the Express’s Kathleen Richards, “home to old-fashion ice cream stores, barber shops, La Piñata and meth dealers.” Sometimes it gets tiresome to be a city summed up in clever catch phrases—someone told me on the playground this morning something she’d heard people say about Alameda, “Home to newly weds and nearly deads.”

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Alameda city budget, compare and contrast

Michele Ellson over at The Island has done a little piece on how the City of Alameda spends its money. For comparison purposes, she set out to find another city with similar demographics:

After narrowing the list down to about a dozen California cities – most of which, incidentally, are facing the same budget problems that we are – I ended up 35 miles southwest of here. What I found was a city that spends far more money on parks and libraries than we do – and less on its fire department, despite the fact that Redwood City’s fire department handles more calls than ours does.

Here’s what she found about Park and Recreation services:

Redwood City spends twice what Alameda does on its parks and recreation services, despite the fact that workers there have only 14 acres more of parkland to maintain. A lot of the amenities offered – two pools, a senior center, a teen center, a skate park, dog parks – are identical to those offered here. But Redwood City pays far more to maintain those amenities, and more to staff programs.

And firefighters:

On the flip side, there’s one department we spend more money on, and that’s fire. We spent $21.5 million to Redwood City’s $17.3 million, with $19 million for workers’ salaries, benefits and overtime to their $14.5 million. Our fire department is over 100 strong, compared to 70 in Redwood City. And our department has a lifetime health care benefit for spouses that Redwood City’s doesn’t.

You can read the whole piece here—and Ellson promises there are more details to come.

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The method of “Save our City! Alameda”

As detailed by Lauren Do over at Blogging Bayport, David Howard, chief of Save our City! Alameda, the group that is advancing the argument that the City of Alameda is on the edge of bankruptcy (as part of an effort to side-line plans for development at Alameda Point), took this quotation from a letter from Fire Chief David Kapler about cuts to fire department overtime:

Setting aside history, the current economic situation (local, state and federal) is what is forcing this move. If the city does not adjust spending, it would be facing bankruptcy in as little as 36 – 48 months. If that were to happen the impact to the Department and its members would be much worse than temporary brownouts.

And changed it to this:

the City (is) facing bankruptcy in as little as 36-48 months

And then Save Our City! Alameda blasted the misquote out in a press release. In the real email, the Chief says if we don’t adjust spending we might just face bankruptcy in three or four years. The version put out by Save our City! Alameda, with the word ‘is’ inserted, makes it read like the fire chief is saying bankruptcy is imminent. But, of course, most every institution, public and private, will likely be will be in financial straits if spending is not adjusted as revenue falls.

As I have said before, there are many rational reasons to question the plans for development at Alameda Point, and plenty nuanced discussions that we as a community should be having about what the future can and should look like there, but distorting the fire chief’s meaning in order to advance that cause is–uh? What do you think? And then continuing to do so even when the inaccuracy is documented is further perplexing.

Michele Ellson has the full text of Fire Chief Kapler’s letter, by the way. And Ellson also talked to Mayor Beverly Johnson and David Howard about the issue. The Fire Chief’s direct response is here.

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Webster Tube reopened after fallen debris removed

The Webster Tube from Oakland to Alameda was shut down on Sunday after an 8-foot-by-8-foot chunk of decorative concrete fell onto the roadway about 6 p.m. According to Caltrans no one was injured, and the tube was reopened in time for this morning’s commute. Details here. Last Thursday, the parallel Posey Tube, which moves trafffic from Alameda to Oakland, was shut down for a bus accident.